Saturday, February 9, 2013

West Ridge of Innominata (aka Raphael)

J and I got back to El Chalten in the late afternoon on January 20th . The weather was still good so we wanted to get out climbing again, but we needed rest and food. In Patagonia, good weather spells like this are rare so we wanted to recover quickly. We decided to rest for two days, and after this the forecast showed two to three more days of good weather. We still had gear at Niponino and we wanted to go rock climbing this time so we headed back into the Torre Valley to do the West Ridge of Innominata. Innominata is a rock tower in the Fitzroy massif immediately south of Poincenot (which I climbed with Mark Westman in 2009).

L to R: Fitzroy, Poincenot, Innominata, St Exupery
We left El Chalten on January 23rd and walked to Polacos, a campsite one hour beyond Niponino just below the approach to the rock towers south of Fitzroy. The approaches to Innominata, Saint Exupery, and De la S (the three towers south of Poincenot) all use the same rocky ramp system above Polacos. From the top of this ramp system we headed up the first gully between Innominata and Poincenot for a short distance before roping up.

West Ridge climbs the wall on the right then along skyline.
As we started our climb, the sun came up on the Torre group lighting up the granite with a bright orange.

Torre Group at dawn

Starting up our route

I led the first block that had several of the most difficult pitches on he route. It followed a crack system up a wall to the crest of the ridge that was mostly clean, enjoyable, Yosemite-like crack.

J following 2nd pitch

The third pitch climbed up a steep corner capped with a short five inch wide crack. I grovelled my way up this seemingly monolithic piece of rock, and as I grabbed a good hold at the top, a block of rock fractured off that I pushed aside as I came off with it. I suffered a minor scrape under my eye leaving me with a bit of a shiner. But fortunately it didn't seriously harm either of us. I had a good cam in the crack just below where the rock broke off that held my short fall.

I led the next cleaner, but more difficult, looking crack. According to the guide book we had twenty pitches on the ridge before the West Ridge intersected the Anglo-American route which had five more pitches to the top. To try and speed things up I grabbed gear to pull through a couple of difficult sections.

J following 4th pitch

J took over the lead after this with the idea that he would get us past the first tower on the ridge and then I would take over again and lead us around the second tower to the Anglo-American route.

J leading up the ridge

We had heard from some friends who had climbed this route, that after the initial steep pitches there was a lot of easy climbing that would go quickly.

Me climbing along the ridge crest

We did find some easier climbing, but the route finding to get around the first tower was complicated. We thought we could make up some time by climbing simultaneously while roped together. But we found the climbing and route finding just difficult enough that we belayed each pitch.

J leading crack to regain ridge crest

We ended up moving slower that we had hoped. This was our first long rock climb in the range and we could probably learn to move a lot faster with a bit more practice.

J did a great job getting us to the ridge crest between the first and second towers and it was my turn to lead again.

J between 1st and 2nd towers
To pass the second tower I climbed sideways in a series of squeeze chimneys.

Me in squeeze chimney

We got to the intersection with the Anglo-American route at 8PM, which was the route we would rappel down. We still had five more rope lengths to the summit of Innominata and if we kept going we would probably arrive after dark. Both of us didn't want to rappel an unknown route in the dark, so we headed down without climbing to the summit.

We finished the rappels into the gully between Poincenot and Innominata just as it got dark. We down climbed the gully to get to the ramp that would take us back to our camp. Unfortunately we did not register some key landmarks on the way up and we couldn't find the entrance to the ramp. We went up and down the gully several times without finding the way. So we finally decided to take a nap for a couple hours until it got light and we could see our way.

Waiting for dawn

After it got light we found the ramp and quickly descended to our camp at Polacos.

Camp at Polacos

We hiked back to Niponino and picked up everything we left there and made the long walk back to El Chalten.


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